SOCIOLOGY

By the end of this activity, you will have:

  • Summarize the core concepts of sociology and recognize and explain the “sociological imagination” when viewing social phenomena and your own life.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of individual and group differences and alliances and explain how they may be influenced by race, gender, sexual orientation, age, class, religion and/or disabilities.

Review the five PBS video segments available online at:

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Note: If the link above does not work for some reason, try the main site and then click on “Watch the Full Program Online



Please note: This is a popular site and video. You are advised to plan ahead and try to complete this assignment as early in the week as possible in order to ensure the site is available and not overwhelmed by traffic.

As you complete this assignment, think about the following:

  • How is race socially constructed?
  • How do we socialize children to recognize race and ethnicity?
  • How do we define racism, prejudice and discrimination and how do they relate to privilege?

After viewing the various segments of the “Blues Eyes, Brown Eyes” videos, answer one (1) of the following sets of questions.



Option 1: Racism



Some people argue that racism is primarily a belief or attitude and that anyone who unfairly judges another based on race is racist. Others argue that racism is about action and systemic discrimination, so only those with the power to act, and not those who are the targets of discrimination, can be racist. Based on the quotes listed below and in an essay format, answer the following: which argument do you find more convincing and why? Is there a difference between racism and prejudice? If so, what is the difference?

“Racism couples the false assumption that race determines psychological and cultural traits with the belief that one race is superior to another.”
–A World of Difference project of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai Brith .

“Racism is any attitude, action, or institutional structure which subordinates a person or group because of skin color.”
–U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 1970



“We define racism as an institutionalized system of economic, political, social, and cultural relations that ensures that one racial group has and maintains power and privilege over all others in all aspects of life. Individual participation in racism occurs when the objective outcome of behavior reinforces these relations, regardless of the subjective intent.”
–Carol Brunson Phillips and Louise Derman-Sparks in Teaching/Learning Anti-Racism: A Developmental Approach, (Teachers College Press, 1997)



Option 2: Privilege



One of the goals of the civil rights movement was to ensure equal opportunity for every US citizen, irrespective of race. When the civil rights movement began, the legal system did not grant the same rights to blacks and other minorities as it did to whites. Today, those laws have been changed, leading some to argue that the US has achieved a level playing field for all. Is the field level? Is success based exclusively on merit and luck, or is race-based “privilege” still a factor? How was affirmative action policy crafted to address issues of privilege? Has it been successful?




Based on the quotes listed below and in an essay format, consider the following definitions. What are the differences between them? How do they compare with the dictionary definition of “privilege”?

  • “unearned power conferred systemically”
    (Source: Peggy McIntosh, 1995)
  • white privilege (hwait ‘privilidz), social relation, [ad. L. privilegi-um a bill or law in favor of or against an individual.]

    1. a. A right, advantage, or immunity granted to or enjoyed by the class of white persons beyond the common advantage of all others; an exemption in many particular cases from certain burdens or liabilities.
    b. In extended sense: A special advantage or benefit of white persons; with ideological reference to divine dispensations, natural advantages, gifts of fortune, genetic endowments, social relations, etc.

    2. A privileged position; the possession of an advantage white persons enjoy over non-whites and white individuals enjoy over non-white individuals.

    3. a. The special right or immunity attaching to white persons as a social relation; prerogative.
    b. display of white privilege, a social expression of a white person or persons demanding to be treated as a member or members of the socially privileged class.
    (Source: The Monkeyfist Collective)

Reprinted from FRONTLINE Teacher’s Center at: Student Assignment Sheet: A Class Divided 

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